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The Greatest Wet Races in F1 – Part One

Formula One in the wet is a spectacle on a whole other level when compared to dry-weather racing. These cars are dangerous enough to wrestle with in the dry, so just imagine having to drive over 50 laps in a car producing over 1,000 bhp (although this has been reduced now that they are using V6 engines). The speeds may be significantly reduced nowadays but the horsepower that resides in the engines and the potential power ready to be unleashed means that one small slip can mean the end of a driver’s race. Drivers have to battle against the elements of spray and pouring rain, where in some cases they actually would prefer the rain over the spray. Visibility is reduced and it’s a task just to keep it on the road, let alone at a reasonable fast pace and to stay ahead of the competition.

So we’ve taken a look at the greatest wet races of all time in Formula One in another two-part blog series. If you think we’ve missed any out or disagree let us know!

 

Fuji – 1976 – James Hunt

james hunt Niki lauda

 image source: Mirror.co.uk

 

It was the Championship decider and all eyes were on the potential British Champion after what was a torrid season of Formula One, which saw title contender and Ferrari Champion Niki Lauda suffered third degree burns to his face and head after a horrific accident at the Nurburgring earlier that year. Miraculously, he recovered to a point where he forced himself to get back in the car just 6 weeks after his accident and continue battling with his rival James Hunt. Arriving at Fuji, the clouds were gathering on race day and the weather was torrential rain, soaking the circuit and raising doubts over whether the race should go ahead.

It did and James Hunt put on an impressive display of skill to clinch the World Championship that year by one point. It would be his only title but that race signified his best driving in the most appalling conditions. It simply would not have gone ahead in today’s sport, with water pooling on the circuit and unimaginable amounts of spray causing difficulty for everyone. Niki Lauda had actually pulled into the pits, refusing to take the risk of driving in those conditions and it potentially cost him the World Championship but noone could blame him after the year of hardship he had experienced. “My life is worth more than a title” he said, no doubt affected by the eye opening events earlier that year.

 

 

Donnington – 1993 – Ayrton Senna

Donnington 1993

image source:bbc.co.uk

Donnington was a race circuit which never fully lived up to it’s potential and despite efforts to rejuvenate it for modern Formula One use, it wasn’t to be. It was however, one of the most memorable races in F1 history thanks to a wet weather race and the most incredible driving you would see from anyone. Ayrton Senna. The race was plagued by changeable conditions and proved to be possibly Senna’s greatest race victory.

After Schumacher blocked Senna at the start he fought his way to the front, until a poor pit stop held him up by 20 seconds forcing him to fight back again. It started to rain once again and both Williams cars in front stopped for wet tyres, Senna made the decision to stay out which turned out to be the right call when the rain stopped again and the track dried out. Senna won, from Hill and Prost having made four pit stops in changeable conditions, which was quite a feat in itself. Those that were there remembered it for one thing; Ayrton Senna’s ability to adapt no matter what the conditions and still find the edge over his competition.

 

 

Spa – 1998 – Damon Hill

Schumacher hits Coulthard

image source: bbc.co.uk

The Belgian Grand Prix was one of the most memorable races because of the drama the weather provided. It not only gave us possibly the worst pile-up in Formula One history (see our greatest crash list), but also the first win for Eddie Jordan’s Jordan team and Damon Hill’s first win since leaving Williams in 1996 as Champion. The incredible first lap crash which delayed the race start for over an hour was just the beginning and with some cars not returning to the grid, it was already a depleted field.

The championship was still open and Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari almost had the win in his grasp, until 20 laps from the end he hit the back of David Coulthard’s McLaren in poor visibility and tore his front wing off. The weather was atrocious and cars were spinning off all afternoon but Schumacher’s skills in the wet were legendary, which made the incident that much more shocking. Furious, he stormed into the McLaren garage to confront Coulthard over the incident, knowing it had struck a major blow to his title hopes on an emotionally and physically draining day for everyone.

Damon Hill, however, carried on, keeping his car on the black stuff and avoiding unnecessary accidents to take a well-deserved win and to give Jordan their first Formula One win. The weather was horrendous, the race was incident-packed and the result was surprising. Everything you could want in a Formula One race!

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